Raymont walked a full house of documentary production, TV broadcasting and scriptwriting students through several opening sequences from his documentaries including Shake Hands With The Devil, A Promise To The Dead,and Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould.
Openings in any film are gateways into the story. Raymont says the filmmaker's objective is to engage the audience by making them care about the character and the story right at the beginning of a film and to make them curious and interested enough to want to watch the rest of it. Raymont emphasized the delicate balance of weighing the elements and ingredients that typically unfold in the opening of a documentary: exposition and background information, introduction of the main character(s), establishing the world of the character and setting the tone and style of what's to come - how much to include, what to leave out. In the end says Raymont, "Keep it simple and to the point."
The Academy Award nominee was most generous with his time playing selected clips several times and sometimes with the sound off to drive home a particular point about designing effective openings.
Born in Ottawa, Raymont is the president of White Pine Pictures, an independent film, television and new media production company based in Toronto whose most recent doc is West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson.
(Click on the image for an interview with Peter Raymont recorded by the National Screen Institute)